Oklahoma's Spencer Rattler leads list of top 10 college football quarterbacks

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With Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, Mac Jones and others off to the NFL, there's no obvious answer to this popular question: Who is the best quarterback in college football?

The top contender heading into September is Oklahoma sophomore Spencer Rattler, who rebounded from a sluggish start to the 2020 season before rallying to lead the Sooners back to the top of Big 12 and into a New Year's Six bowl. Rattler is poised to do what no Oklahoma quarterback has done since 2000: Win the national championship.

Just behind Rattler are North Carolina's Sam Howell, Georgia's JT Daniels, Southern California's Kedon Slovis and the first-year starting quarterbacks at Clemson and Alabama.

With the regular season just around the corner, here are USA TODAY Sports' top 10 quarterbacks in the country:

1. Spencer Rattler, Oklahoma

Barring injury, Rattler is going to be one of the last players standing for the Heisman Trophy. Too far? Lincoln Riley was hired as Oklahoma's offensive coordinator in 2015 and replaced Bob Stoops as head coach in 2017. Baker Mayfield finished fourth for the Heisman in 2015, third in 2016 and first in 2017. Kyler Murray finished first in 2018. Jalen Hurts finished second in 2019. After a flawed but still impressive debut season in the starting lineup, Rattler is ready to join that group in 2021.

2. Sam Howell, North Carolina

Howell is the new face of the ACC and the primary reason why UNC has to be taken seriously as a team that can beat Clemson, win the conference and squeeze into the College Football Playoff. The biggest recruiting win of many during Mack Brown's second tenure with the program, Howell leads an offense that has averaged an ACC-best 43.5 points in its past 15 games.

3. JT Daniels, Georgia

Now ensconced in the starting role, Daniels brings an element to the quarterback position that Georgia hasn't had during the Kirby Smart era. He's seen as the best quarterback in the SEC, a genuine Heisman contender and the main reason this year's team might be the one that finally gets over the hump and climbs to No. 1.

4. Kedon Slovis, Southern California

Slovis has averaged 334.3 passing yards in games he has started and finished since ascending into the lineup two weeks into the 2019 season. (He replaced Daniels, the Trojans starter heading into that year before suffering a knee injury.) Slovis is an obvious fit for coordinator Graham Harrell's scheme, but the question is whether he can maintain that high level of production as the Trojans replace a pair of all-conference receivers.

5. DJ Uiagalelei, Clemson

Uiagalelei ranks ahead of his counterpart at Alabama thanks to his two games of starting experience, highlighted by a record-setting performance in Clemson's loss to Notre Dame. Powerfully built with a cannon for an arm, the sophomore has the chance to quickly move out of the shadow cast by predecessor Trevor Lawrence by leading the Tigers past Georgia in the season opener.

6. Bryce Young, Alabama

Bryce Young is succeeding Mac Jones as Alabama quarterback.
Bryce Young is succeeding Mac Jones as Alabama quarterback.

Young waited his turn behind Mac Jones in 2020 and is ready to take over an offense that will remain dynamic despite turnover at every position group. Unlike Jones, Young has the athleticism to bring a slightly different dimension to a system now orchestrated by former Houston Texans coach Bill O'Brien. The expectations are immense. Young has the talent to be a superstar.

7. Brock Purdy, Iowa State

Purdy was imperfect last season, making the Cyclones' near-miss in the Big 12 championship game all the more impressive. A rebound is expected in 2021. Think about the assets in his corner: Purdy will take snaps from one of the nation's best centers (Colin Newell), hand off to one of the nation's best running backs (Breece Hall) and throw to one of the nation's top tight ends (Charlie Kolar).

8. Carson Strong, Nevada

Strong is highly accurate, highly confident and perhaps only beginning to tap into his potential. A widely unknown commodity heading into 2020, he completed 70.1% of attempts and finished in the top 10 nationally in touchdowns and yards per attempt as the Wolf Pack challenged for the program's first Top 25 finish since 2009. That performance put Strong on the national map and sent the third-year starter rocketing up preseason draft rankings.

9. Dillon Gabriel, Central Florida

Right alongside Strong as the top passers in the Group of Five, Gabriel has tossed 61 touchdowns against just 11 interceptions in his two years as the Knights' starter. His career takes an interesting turn with the arrival of former Auburn coach Gus Malzahn, who previously developed prolific passing games at Tulsa and Arkansas State.

10. Matt Corral, Mississippi

Corral's per-play production in 2020 was elite: 10.2 yards per pass, 14.5 yards per completion, 11.2 attempts per touchdown and 4.5 yards per carry. For now, turnovers are what's keeping him behind others on this list; Corral tossed an SEC-worst 14 interceptions, most of those coming in losses to Arkansas and LSU. It's totally reasonable to expect Corral's game to reach another level in his second season under Lane Kiffin.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: College football quarterback rankings: top 10 list